United Cerebral Palsy of Southwest Florida in Cape Coral started construction of its first three group homes in 1983. Then known as Sunrise Community, UCP of Southwest Florida officially opened in May of 1984 as home to twenty-four individual with intellectual disabilities and involved medical needs. The set of group homes became known as the “cluster.” The homes provided 24-hour-a-day nursing services, physical therapy services, occupational therapy services, speech therapy services, dietary services, case management, and round-the-clock staff to assist the individuals with daily living skills and successful engagement in the community. Twenty-eight years later, the three original group homes are still in operation and served as the foundation for expanding specialized services.
Ten years after the initial construction of UCP’s cluster, the organization opened its first Adult Day Training (ADT) Center. Initially, the Center’s pre-vocational training program and life skills development services were exclusively for the benefit of individuals living in UCP’s group homes. During that same year, UCP’s added two more group homes to meet the service needs of individuals and their families in the local area.
Then, the demand and need for local developmental disability services sky-rocketed. To meet the volume of needs from more medically involved individuals, Sunrise opened its ADT to the community. The response was overwhelming and eventually resulted in the opening of yet another group home that specialized in providing residential habilitation services. Concurrently, UCP expanded services and began providing transportation for people with disabilities that would not have otherwise had access to critical support services. In addition, UCP began providing in-home support services, supported living, companion services, respite, and supported employment services.
Since that time, UCP of Southwest Florida has amassed an impressive list of community supporters by making a tremendous positive impact in the area. UCP exclusively raised all the funds needed to install a handicapped lift at Pine Island Community Pool. Today, the lift is still fully functioning and enjoyed by people with developmental disabilities as well as elders with acquired disabilities in Cape Coral. In addition, UCP launched a Special Equestrians program providing therapy for adults as well as children with special needs. Community partners and support organizations include but are not limited to the Kiwanis Club, Special Olympics, the Transition Team with the Lee County School District, Friends of Wild Life, local churches and the City of Cape Coral.
Aside from these impressive accomplishments, the most important thing UCP has achieved is assisting people with disabilities in realizing their full potential. Based upon one’s varying level of ability, UCP has helped people to get hired and to maintain steady employment, move out of institutions and into private apartments and homes while facilitating friendships and fulfilling lives in the community.